PUBLIC BEHAVIOR

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Public behavior falls into two categories:

1) "control" (required by law)
2) "etiquette" (established by convention)

For Example:
There is no law saying your dog has to stand and sit repeatedly as you inch forward in a line (this is established etiquette, not law). However, a dog that is standing tends to shuffle around and stare at surroundings, which means it can be distracted from the work it is trained to do. The dog could even start being disruptive (indicating it's out of your control). By law, a service dog must be in the handler's control. So, whether or not your dog sits and stands while inching forward, it needs to be focused on you.

Ignoring the Public: Focusing On You

It might seem weird, at first, that your dog is going to be trained to ignore everyone but you. This is the opposite of what a "therapy dog" is trained to do, for example (i.e., interact with the public). Your service dog's job is to focus on your needs and not seek attention from others. But you can give your dog all the love and attention you want all day long (so long as it's behaving well). 

 

There is no law that explicitly states a service dog
must ignore its surroundings, but
 . . .
if the dog is distracted or seeking attention from others, then it's probably not focusing on you to perform its tasks, and it could even cause disruption (which are legal issues). 

How Can I Stop People from Approaching My Dog?

If you use a vest that says "Service Dog: Do Not Touch," then it's easy to rebuff kids and oglers with a smile and the words: "Sorry, she's working"--then move on.

How Can I Train My Dog to Ignore the Public?
When other people stop interacting with your dog, she learns there's no reward in it and knows there is a job to do. 
If your dog fixates on a person, animal, or object for more than a couple of seconds, I was instructed to make a correction by quietly saying "no" and giving the leash a little quick tug. If the dog does not respond to subtle correction, turn her in another direction and walk away to distract her. Pretty soon the dog learns to distract herself.

Should Service Dogs "Never" Be Allowed to Interact with the Public?
That is what my trainer believes, but some handlers use a release command to occasionally allow someone to approach and pet the dog as an introduction. I allow a new class of students to do this, for example, because they feel better about her if they've been "introduced." My command is "Okay, Jesse, go say hi," and I walk her around the room. My dog is usually not comfortable receiving attention from the public (because she's been trained not to), so she tends to shy away and constantly looks at me.

 

An Easy Way to "Tuck"
Service dogs tuck under a table or desk, etc., to stay out of the way of pedestrian traffic. The easy way to train the dog to do this is to simply choose a chair on the far side of a table and walk the dog under the table as you go to it. Then, stop the dog under the table and have it lay down. Then, move chairs around, screech them across the floor, etc., to let the dog get used to those sounds and movements. Very soon, the dog will know to go under a table when you're seated.

Stairs and Elevator

Dogs are not automatically able to go up and down stairs. They usually need a little coaching and practice. Elevators can also seem foreign, but they can usually get used to riding in them if you walk into them as if you're walking anywhere else.

NO Escalators!
Escalators should never be used with dogs because they can catch a dog’s hair or limbs in the treads. Use an elevator instead.

 

No eating off the ground.
You never know what could be on the ground—something sharp, poisonous, etc. My trainer would throw treats in front of the dog or slide them across the floor and then I would give a gentle correction if the dog tried to grab them.

No cringing.
My trainer took me to Home Depot and threw metal pieces up in the air and backward so they would crash behind us. Any time she would cringe (even slightly), she received a gentle correction. I think I cringed more than she did. We only spent 10 minutes in there--and that was the end of the training session, because this kind of work stresses a dog (a little goes a long way).

No Fixating on Squirrels or Balls
We also went to a sports store, where the trainer bounced balls around and rolled them by my dog. Any time the dog fixated for more than a couple of seconds, I would say “no” and gently give a little tug on the leash. Jesse is a crazed hunter by nature--when the vest is off, she chases squirrels and lizards all around the yard. When the vest goes on, she ignores them.

No Staring
You were probably taught that it's not polite to stare. Your dog can get distracted if she fixates on a person, animal, or object more than a couple of seconds. A gentle correction usually interrupts the stare--or if more distraction is needed, walk your dog in the opposite direction to distract her.

Remember, a 10-minute session of training for the above lessons is a hard session for your dog. Keep sessions short.